In the past 5 years, Aston Villa have come a long way - not necessarily always going in the right direction! Looking back, I think this was probably the result that put the nail in the coffin of an already dead and buried side. Relegated following a dismal campaign that saw us finish rock bottom of the league, winning only 3 games all season, picking up 17 total points (half that of Norwich who finished 19th, the 4th lowest points tally ever accumulated in the Premier League's history) and finishing with a goal difference of -49. Grim.
At the date of posting, 5 years ago takes us to almost the 14th of February 2016, Valentine's Day - although our result on that day definitely broke more hearts than it filled. We were steamrolled 0-6 by Liverpool at Villa Park, Benteke's first game back since his summer move to Liverpool in 2015, and whilst the big Belgian didn't get on the scoresheet that day, 6 other of Jurgen Klopp's men did. I saw an image that came around on twitter comparing the team that played on that day to the one that we fielded most recently against Arsenal, and it got me wondering: what ever happened to half of these players? Did any go on to have decent careers?
I've done the research, and I think that whilst some will surprise you, some certainly won't. There is actually one player who made the squad on that day that was in the current match day squad, and it WASN'T Jack Grealish before you assume! Take a guess now and wait and see. So, with that said, let's find out what happened to the 18 players that made up the squad in one of our worst ever performances and results...
Manager: Remi Garde - Out of Work
It seems right to start by looking at where the man who fielded the monstrosity is now. I'm going to throw out there that Garde was probably the worst Villa manager in history, although I do have some sympathy for him given that he inherited what was realistically just one giant mess of a squad playing for a club on it's knees. Garde left Villa by mutual consent after accumulating a win percentage of just 13%. Since then, he's only had one more managerial job at Montreal Impact in the MLS. He was sacked in 2019 after failing to reach the playoffs on the final day of the season and hasn't worked in management since.
Goalkeeper: Mark Bunn - Retired
Moving on to the players, it was Bunn who had the displeasure of picking the ball out of the net 6 times on that fateful day. Bunn remained at the club until the end of the 18/19 season where, having fallen to 4th choice and practically part of the coaching staff, he retired from the game aged 35. He is currently the goalkeeping coach for Cambridge United in League Two.
Right Back: Micah Richards - Retired
Oh Micah. Brought in and made captain by Tim Sherwood, it'd be fair to say that Richards' time at Villa didn't go as planned. Like Bunn, Richards remained at Villa for the remainder of his career, where he only appeared sporadically due to numerous injuries and being generally out of favour. He retired aged 31 and now works as a pundit for Sky Sports, often bringing humour through winding up fellow pundit Roy Keane.
Centre Back: Jores Okore - Aalborg BK
Another who failed to hit the heights he was tipped for, Okore left Villa in the summer following relegation to join Copenhagen on a free transfer, returning to his home country of Denmark where he has since remained. He currently plays for Aalborg in the Danish First Division having made 13 appearances this season, scoring once and also picking up an assist. Aalborg currently sit 7th.
Centre Back: Joleon Lescott - Retired
This man. Less said the better, probably. Worth remembering that this is the game which afterwards he tweeted THAT picture of a car, which he later claimed was a pocket tweet. Classic. Left Villa for AEK Athens on a free transfer after our relegation, released after 3 months, joined Sunderland in January 2017, Retired in July aged 34. Occasionally works as a pundit. Moving on.
Left Back: Aly Cissokho - AFC Blois 1995
Strange one this. Cissokho played half the 15/16 campaign having returned from a loan at Porto in January. He remained at the club at the beginning of the championship era, playing occasionally in rotation with Jordan Amavi before departing for Olympiacos on loan. He then moved to Yeni Matalyaspor in Turkey permanently in 2017, followed by joining first division rivals Antalyaspor the following year. He then oddly left the Turkish capital for French non-league side (as far as I can gather, there appears to be next to no trace of the team anywhere on the internet) AFC Blois 1995 in the summer of 2020, returning to what I would assume is his home town club. At 33, it's unclear as such if he has retired from the professional game or not. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
Right Midfield: Leandro Bacuna - Cardiff City
Remember him? Leandro "Villa is a stepping stone for me to play in Europe" Bacuna. How'd that work out? Short answer - it didn't, he's played in the Championship ever since. Joined Reading in 2017 where he stayed for a few seasons before moving to current club Cardiff in 2019. This season he's registered one assist in 27 appearances in the league, no goals.
Central Midfield: Ashley Westwood - Burnley
A contender for one of the few players that actually earned some credit during our disastrous season, Westwood probably copped a lot more criticism than he deserved given the players surrounding him. He's proven his worth too, having played consistently in the Premier League for Burnley since his £5m deadline day move in January 2017. He's been ever present for Burnley this time out having played every single league minute so far, notching a goal and two assists in the process.
Central Midfield: Idrissa Gueye - Paris Saint-Germain
Going to go out on a limb and say that this is the player who has had the most success of the whole match day squad in the proceeding 5 years. Gueye first left for Everton for just shy of £8m (we took a loss on him somehow despite him having a good season), where he then moved to PSG for around the £27m mark. He's played 18 times for them this campaign, scoring twice. I should also mention he received a Champions League runners up medal last year and plays alongside Neymar and Mbappe, so yeah, fair to say he wins the 'most successful of the class' award.
Left Midfield: Jordan Veretout - AS Roma
I dont really know why Veretout never really got a look in at Villa, but then again it's sort of evident we were mismanaged horrifically for years, so it makes sense. Veretout moved to Italy, following a loan spell at St. Ettiene in France, where he joined Fiorentina in 2017. He then went on loan to Roma in 2019 and made that move permanent for £14m last summer. This year he has made 20 appearances, scored 7 times and got 2 assists in Serie A. Not bad going at all, a wasted talent in Birmingham.
Centre Attacking Midfield: Carles Gil - New England Revolution
I honestly though Gil was going to be the next Messi, not ashamed to admit it. Of course, however, I was wrong. Never really got a solid chance in B6, left for Deportivo La Coruña on a two-year loan almost immediately after relegation and that deal was made permanent in 2018. 6 months later he joined the New England Revolution in the MLS. He spent the majority of 19/20 out with an Achilles Tendon injury that required surgery, only managing 10 appearances across the season, but did score twice and also got 4 assists in doing so.
Striker: Gabby Agbonlahor - Retired
Club legend. Current Premier League all time leading goalscorer for the Villans and a one club man, gave us many years of service and several memorable goals, loved playing the Blues and silencing the noses. He left Villa after his release from the club, and retired at 32 years old, stating he wouldn't ever want to play for another club. Hero. You can now find him rattling Leeds fans on Twitter on a weekly basis (which is gold, by the way), alongside regularly featuring on Talksport and Sky Sports as a pundit. Never change, Gab.
Brad Guzan - Atlanta United
Villa's number 1 for several forgettable seasons, Guzan left following the club's relegation and joined fellow Championship side Middlesbrough on a free transfer. He then left to the MLS, again for free, where he joined Atlanta United and remains to this day. He played 27 times last season including four games in the Americas equivalent of the Champions League, conceding 34 goals and keeping 8 clean sheets.
Ciaran Clark - Newcastle United
One of the few players in this team that still plays in the top flight of English football, I couldn't believe we let him go after we were relegated. He joined Newcastle for just over £5m where he has since remained, and has subsequently played 57 times in the Prem for the Magpies. This season, he has made 12 appearances and scored 1 goal, coming in a 5-2 loss away to Leeds.
Scott Sinclair - Preston North End
What could have been for this boy. Despite feeling like he's been around for ages, believe it or not, Sinclair is still only 31. Baffling. He left Villa in the summer of 2016 for Celtic before moving back to England and joining Preston for an undisclosed fee. He's played 25 times in the Championship this campaign, netting 8 times and registering 3 assists.
Kieran Richardson - Retired
Similar trajectory to Lescott here. Released by Villa after relegation, joined Cardiff later in the year, retired after just over 2 months. No trace of what he's up to now anywhere on the Internet.
Alan Hutton - Retired
Say what you want about Hutts, but again, like Gabby, cult hero. Scored *THAT* goal against Blues the year we were promoted, played a pretty integral part in the promotion season, loved by all. Released following promotion in 2019, retired in 2020 aged 35. The Scottish Cafu.
Jordan Lyden - Swindon Town
A product of the Villa academy, Lyden was a promising youngster who just never broke through. After a loan spell of 6 months at Oldham Athletic, Villa released Lyden in 2019. He signed for Swindon shortly after and has made 9 appearances this season, mainly from the bench.
Keinan Davis - Aston Villa
If you guessed this at the start of the article, congratulations! KD is the only member of this squad that still plays for the Villa. Thrown on the bench at 17 years of age in this one, weird move. He's made 5 appearances so far this campaign, yet to score a Premier league goal for us, but still only 22. Smith clearly rates him and, with time and experience, I'm sure he'll come good.
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